Wow! Reflections on the First International Adult Giftedness Symposium

By Deborah Mersino

I hadn’t intended to get choked up. After all, I had heard two of the three keynote speakers present before. However, from the moment I walked into the sun-drenched room at the Lionsgate Center in Lafayette, Colorado on April 12, 2011, something stirred inside of me.

As an attendee at “The Gifted Journey: Hardwired for Life – The First International Symposium on Adult Giftedness,” I knew I was in for a treat. After spending the past two years working in the realm of giftedness, launching #gtchat on Twitter, and building my business, Ingeniosus, I was now going to be surrounded by inspiring leaders and colleagues who shared my passion and thirst for learning.

Amid the purple-donned tablecloths and stained glass windows, I spotted Dr. Linda Silverman of the Gifted Development Center; she was glowing and chatting away. When I first met Linda, she was presenting at the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented Conference in 2009. Her topic was “So what if I’m gifted? Am I thin enough?” I became a fan on the spot.

I then saw Dr. Patricia Gatto-Walden walking across the room with her trademark curls and beaming smile. She, too, had inspired me at that same conference in 2009. When Linda, Patricia, and I found ourselves on the same flight to NAGC’s Annual Conference in Atlanta more than a year later, I felt serendipity at work. For the record, short cab rides from airports to hotels can be life-altering.

Now, I found myself looking forward to a day of learning. Dr. Ellen Fielder was also going to be speaking on adult giftedness. Several members of the online gifted community had spoken highly of her, and I was eagerly anticipating her talk as well.

What transpired over the next eight hours caused me to shift my thinking, expand my awareness, and grow my appreciation for the gifted community. And although I couldn’t possibly do justice to each and every presentation and discussion at the symposium, I have decided to share my most poignant personal learns. Credit goes to the talented presenters, facilitators, and referenced scholars, who captured the essence of what matters to us, what moves us, what makes us tick, and what chokes us up. As I’m traveling through “The Gifted Journey: Hardwired for Life”, I now realize:

  • I can exhaust people! Linda Silverman spoke with levity about how she learned that gifted extroverts sometimes place inordinate and unconscious demands on those around them. Our love for ideation causes us to sometimes chatter away with verve without truly realizing the intensity we’re carrying. I didn’t take this as an affront, but rather it offered me relief. Somewhere subconsciously, I’ve felt this for decades. Now, I get it, and I can be more aware of my impact. I can also view my energetic daughters with fresh eyes.
  • I don’t have to have all the answers! While I’ve considered myself a life-long learner for some time now, I reveled in Patricia Gatto-Walden’s depiction of being in tune with all living things and time. As I heard her poetic words, I opened up my soul a bit. So often, gifted adults have a tendency to want to be “in control” and wind up feeling like they’re “too much” or “not enough.” And while I’m aware of Imposter Syndrome and the like, it finally dawned on me that my overexcitabilities, my intensity, and my creative drive are simply innate. I befriended them – perhaps for the first time in my life.
  • It’s okay to change my mind! Multipotentiality and giftedness can impart confusion and questioning regarding our career trajectories, our love lives, our interests, our preferences, and our desires throughout our lifetime. Add perfectionism to the mix, and it’s easy to confuse “the right path” from “the missed path” or “the horrid path.” The shared anecdotes from the various presenters, panelists, and participants throughout the day helped me let go of having to “get it right” and “do it right now.” Instead, this newfound grace allowed me to embrace “choosing what feels right to me at this particular juncture in time.” I did an inventory of my current “plate” and decided to make some room on it for me.
  • I want someone to do a doctorial thesis based on a question I asked! How does knowing about one’s giftedness – and being supported from an early age – impact a person’s life and their movement through Dabrowski’s 5 levels? With so many myths, paradoxes and debate around the “gifted” label, I believe knowing about one’s giftedness at an early age – and being educated on social-emotional issues in particular – can have a significant positive impact on a life. I’m not likely to pursue a Ph.D., so I hope someone runs with this! I see my own daughters growing up with books like, “101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids” by Christine Fonseca and having lively, critical discussions in their peer groups. I know teens are benefitting from Author Lisa Rivero’s “The Smart Teen’s Guide to Living with Intensity: How to Get More Out of Life and Learning” and the empowering work of gifted authors and specialists throughout the world. I would love to have someone do empirical research on how gifted learners receiving full-fledged affective support in this new generation will forever be altered, as they view themselves more kindly, know themselves better, and travel through their lives with knowledge about their own hardwiring.
  • Gifted adults need peers! This isn’t so we can exhaust each other, but rather, so that we can make sense to ourselves at last. I’m a huge proponent of online communication; I’ve even founded my current career on it. However, at this symposium, I was reminded of the importance of face-to-face learning and dialogue. For instance, having lunch with Tracy Weinberg of the Texas Association of Gifted and Talented (TAGT) gave me a new look into his world, his strengths and his wisdom. Even though we’ve communicated online for some time now, our face-to-face time deepened my appreciation for him and his work and made me even more enthusiastic about supporting TAGT’s Annual Conference in 2011.
  • It’s okay that my daughter’s room is messy! Yes, that’s right. Thanks to the wisdom of Linda Powers Leviton, who serves as director of the Gifted Development Center on the West Coast, I now have a new solution to propose to my visual-spatial daughter, who shares a room with an audio-sequential learner. Linda and I both happened to be at the table discussion on family needs, when I raised the question about kids’ clothes being strewn about a bedroom. Without raising an eyebrow, she shared how she once gave her creative child two laundry baskets – one for clean clothes and one for dirty clothes. Her child didn’t have to hang up his clean clothes (just keep them in the clean basket). This solved the “clothes-on-the-floor” dilemma. And with that empowering support, I officially let go of long-harboring “mommy guilt” associated with non-Pottery-Barn-catalog-looking-bedrooms. Bring on the baskets!
  • I want to hear others’ stories! At one point in the symposium, five individuals representing five different stages of life, shared their stories. Each one blew me away. I found myself laughing out loud, tearing up, sighing deeply as I resonated with a story of struggle, and applauding as vigorously as possible – for these stories moved me. Even the infamous Annmarie Roeper, who is in her 90s, shared her story virtually. Barbara Mitchell Hutton read Annmarie’s written words with reverence and strength. I realized we have so much to learn from those who have come before us as well as those who are coming after us. I am determined to somehow capture more of these stories – either on this blog, in a book, and/or another forum.

These are just nuggets I gained, but are by no means representative of the full gamut of learning that took place at the symposium. Those who orchestrated this event did a laudable job ensuring that each individual had the opportunity to reflect on their own situation in a non-threatening, encouraging environment that was rich with support, peppered with humor, and enveloped in kinship. Near the end of the day, I choked up as I witnessed the main speakers reflecting on their life’s work. I felt honored to be in their presence and joyous that I’d found my home at last.

As I pulled away in my car at the end of the day, I felt immensely grateful. A thought immediately came to mind, and it has stayed with me until this day. The Adult Giftedness Symposium absolutely has to go on the road!

11 Responses to “Wow! Reflections on the First International Adult Giftedness Symposium”

  1. Gail Blumengarten says:

    Now I better understand why my son’s room was so messy and my daughter’s intensity gave me a headache. I now know why Jerry is so hyper! I have a better understanding of what makes my grandchildren click! Now I need to learn how to live with all this.
    Seriously, I wonderful synopsis.

  2. Terry Bradley says:

    What a nice synopsis of the special day! I left the symposium feeling infused with newfound knowledge and blessed with more friends. It was a great day to reflect, to wonder, to explore, and to learn. The day was magical. Thank you to Barb Mitchell Hutton and the many others who helped to organize it!

  3. What a wonderful synopsis of this powerful event! I am delighted to contribute to your (and your daughters’) release from one of the “shoulds” that can leech us of precious energy and good will. The more I get to connect deeply with gifted people of all chronological ages, the more I appreciate that our gifts are there to enrich and enhance lives through finding and pursuing our passion and life purpose. A clean house gets messy within hours, a child validated and appreciated can impact the future of humankind. Let’s all continue to connect and collaborate to help validate each other this way. Thanks for your wonderful contributions to this end.

  4. Lisa Rivero says:

    Wow, indeed!! Thanks so much for sharing so much insight and information, Deborah, and for the kind mention. I now have a lot of good links to make sure I have bookmarked. 🙂

  5. Thank you Gail, Terry and Linda! Your comments mean a lot. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  6. ljconrad says:

    Well if that isn’t a “Come to Live in Beautiful Colorado if You’re Gifted” banner draped on the side of the Rocky Mountains, I don’t know what is! {{Must hide this post from my children upon whom I have placed inordinate demands all their lives}} Humpf … just one more thing I have to be jealous of … Mrs. Mersino – writer extraordinaire! Now, I have to reassess my entire life. {{This could takes hours!}} And I SO wanted to get some sleep tonight.

  7. […] a start, Deborah Mersino has shared her reflections on attending “The Gifted Journey: Hardwired for Life – The First International Symposium on […]

  8. Thank you for sharing. I would love to see this show on the road and would surely buy your book of stories! 🙂

  9. Jen says:

    I still regret that I wasn’t able to make this symposium; for crying out loud, I can practically SEE the Lionsgate Center from my window! : ( More of these symposiums for and about adults need to be held. I’ll volunteer IL once I’m settled there. LOL
    Thank you so much for the synopsis!

  10. Thanks for the kind words. I was highly impressed with your enthusiasm and energy. I look forward to your participation at the TAGT Annual Conference this fall. The Symposium was most inspirational, both from the knowledge and content offered by the many presenters, AND from the many insightful comments and discussions from the participants.

  11. […] journal dedicated to questions of adult giftedness. Last April, they even held the first-ever Symposium on Adult Giftedness. And in 2012, July19-21, they’re hosting the 10th International Dabrowski Conference. The […]

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